Images captured by a Chinese rover depicting the dusty, rocky surface of Mars have been revealed by the country’s space agency.
Four pictures released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) show the Zhurong rover and lander bearing small national flags.
The CNSA said Zhurong placed a remote camera about 33ft from the landing platform – then withdrew to take a selfie.
The CNSA landed the Tianwen-1 spacecraft carrying the rover on Mars last month after it spent about three months orbiting the red planet.
China is the second country to land and operate a spacecraft on Mars, after the United States.
The orbiter and lander both display small Chinese flags, and the lander bears outlines of the mascots for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
The six-wheeled rover is surveying an area known as Utopia Planitia, searching for signs of water or ice that could lend clues as to whether Mars ever sustained life.
— China National Space Administration (CNSA) (@CNSA_en) May 15, 2021
At 6ft in height, Zhurong is significantly smaller than the US’s Perseverance rover, which is exploring the planet with a tiny helicopter.
Nasa expects its rover to collect its first sample in July for return to Earth as early as 2031.
In addition to the Mars mission, China’s ambitious space programme plans to send the first crew to its new space station next week.
The three crew members plan to stay for three months on the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, station, far exceeding the length of any previous Chinese mission.
They will perform spacewalks, construction and maintenance work and carry out science experiments.
Subsequent launches are planned to expand the station, send supplies and exchange crews.
China has also has brought back lunar samples, the first by any country’s space programme since the 1970s, and landed a probe and rover on the moon’s less explored far side.